Good anarchist reporting is...

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Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 19 2005 20:28
Good anarchist reporting is...

Here's a thread for people to share tips on what makes good anarcho writing, specifically in the field of journalism and reporting, e.g. for Freedom, Resistance and Class War.

Two I'd start off with:

1. Remember that your writing is just a means to an end. As soon as you hand it in to whoever's putting the publication together you've got to be ready for it to be cut, rearranged and generally mucked around with. This will be due to considerations of space, tone and readability. That's just the way it is; text is like any other material and needs to be knocked into shape. Let go.

related to this is

2. House style. A publication has to have a consistent tone. That of Class War is, clearly, jocular, irreverent and somewhat filthy -- like the sun wink That of Freedom is more earnest and authoritative -- like the Times grin I suppose Corporate Watch is the Economist... roll eyes Anyway, this style has to be communicated to writers, they have to write something that will fit. usually this is condensed into a style sheet or house style guide, which also contains basic info about which spellings, usage of numbers, etc. is preferred.

Any other thoughts?

Pilgrim
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Nov 19 2005 22:27

I don't see anything wrong with having a house style. Different publications reflect the position of the editorial staff and, hopefully, the readership.

What Anarchist publications could and should do is make these style guides available to prospective writers. A print copy on request or downloadable or printable from a website wouldn't be a bad thing. I've noticed a fair few mainstream magazines doing exactly that.

It is also a mistake for writers to assume that their work will appear as it was originally written. Of course pieces will be cut for space and clarity and so on. If you can't handle seeing your work altered to fit the publications concerned then either develop a thick skin or give up writing as far as I'm concerned.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 20 2005 16:25

Here's the Guardian's

http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide/0,5817,184913,00.html

martinh
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Nov 20 2005 19:29
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
1. Remember that your writing is just a means to an end. As soon as you hand it in to whoever's putting the publication together you've got to be ready for it to be cut, rearranged and generally mucked around with. This will be due to considerations of space, tone and readability. That's just the way it is; text is like any other material and needs to be knocked into shape. Let go.

I would add from experience that the bits you're ,ost proud of are the ones likely to need cutting. wink

I've lost count of the number of people who stopped writing for things I was involved with 'cos they were prickly about being edited. If you want it in, provide clean copy.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 20 2005 20:03

But of course, since this is anarchist reporting, there's not hierarchy difference between editor and writer, and making sure no one feels jerked around is an important part of the process.

Likewise, anarchist reporting is engaged with the people who are being reported on, and is sensitive to their needs and wishes -- unless they're the enemy, of course;)

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Rob Ray
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Nov 21 2005 12:14

On the other hand, if a journalist/sub is cutting/moving copy, they'll be doing it for a reason, usually to make the writer look better. That's less a heirarchy thing and more an aspect of the work involved (after all, no-one's going to mess about with good news copy, it just makes needless extra work).

One tip for good anarcho writing would be to specialise, oddly. The one thing that is desperately needed is writers with a deep knowledge of subjects such as the NHS, pensions, ID etc and a raft of reliable sources and contacts to use whenever there is a development. It also means that you'll be likely to find out earlier than others when a major development takes place, thus producing potential scoops more often.

I'll have a proper think about this and come up with some more at some point, but in a rush atm.

MalFunction
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Nov 21 2005 12:43

greets

have no problem with publications changing what i submit provided they don't change the meaning. few pieces of text can't be improved upon and mine are no exception!

as everything i write is also posted on my own website it means anyone who wants to see what i originally wrote can do so.

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Steven.
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Nov 21 2005 15:55

This is a good thread.

For reference, here's our style guide:

www.libcom.org/notes/style-guide.php

There's also some other stuff Saii wrote we've been meaning to stick on here:

www.libcom.org/organise/publicity/

... and i will do as soon as my PC's working again!

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the button
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Nov 21 2005 16:09

Good anarchist reporting (like any other reporting) can be read out loud without either running out of breath because the sentences are too long, losing the thread of the argument or losing the will to live.

Also (all you students out there tongue ) writing a news-story is not like writing an essay, because the main points go in your first paragraph not your last.

Oh and another thing ( wink ) -- no statistics in the first paragraph. Or is that just me?

Ghost_of_the_re...
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Nov 21 2005 16:27
Quote:
A publication has to have a consistent tone

Why?

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Nov 21 2005 17:51
Ghost_of_the_revolution wrote:
Quote:
A publication has to have a consistent tone

Why?

Surely it should be representative of the people involved, so a dislcaimer should be used stating individual opinions, but the right of the editorial collective to edit.....

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 21 2005 17:57
Ghost_of_the_revolution wrote:
Quote:
A publication has to have a consistent tone

Why?

Because it should aim to build up a consistent readership.

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JoeMaguire
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Nov 21 2005 18:15
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Ghost_of_the_revolution wrote:
Quote:
A publication has to have a consistent tone

Why?

Because it should aim to build up a consistent readership.

Because dissent and individualism are not to be tolerated?

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Steven.
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Nov 21 2005 18:19
october_lost wrote:
Because dissent and individualism are not to be tolerated?

Are you being serious, october?

No one wants to read something that's just all over the place. There are loads of different libertarian sites for different sets of people - but if you want to keep people coming back to and using yours it has to maintain some consistency. For example, if Now or Never put an issue out like an Aufheben, you can bet it would put off a lot of the readers - ditto the other way around.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 21 2005 18:33

What he said. Which conjures up a pretty funny scenario, BTW grin Imagine the other way around -- 'Capitalist decadence: we say, fuck the royals.' 'Harry Cleaver, lefty wanker', etc, etc. Mr. T

If a publication doesn't have a consistent style, then what's the point of having a recurring title? You might as well put out a series of one-off zines.

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Steven.
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Nov 21 2005 18:40
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
What he said. Which conjures up a pretty funny scenario, BTW grin Imagine the other way around -- 'Capitalist decadence: we say, fuck the royals.' 'Harry Cleaver, lefty wanker', etc, etc. Mr. T

grin

Quote:
If a publication doesn't have a consistent style, then what's the point of having a recurring title? You might as well put out a series of one-off zines.

But then from a series you'd still expect consistency! Otherwise you'll never build up a base of regular users/contributors.

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Nov 21 2005 20:21

Yeah consistency is probably the most important thing you can get. That doesn't mean every writer has to be exactly the same or that their viewpoint needs to be 'approved' (a couple of articles in Freedom recently have even been written by non-anarchists, but were relevant and interesting so went in anyway - then were massacred on their failings in the comment two weeks later), but they have to be aware of the audience and what they are presenting to that audience and write accordingly.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 21 2005 20:24

One of the big problems that Freedom suffered from in the last 10 years or so was the big variation in style, tone and quality. Well done to all involved for keeping it together through the various editorial hand-overs.

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888
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Nov 22 2005 07:34
John. wrote:
october_lost wrote:
Because dissent and individualism are not to be tolerated?

Are you being serious, october?

No one wants to read something that's just all over the place. There are loads of different libertarian sites for different sets of people - but if you want to keep people coming back to and using yours it has to maintain some consistency. For example, if Now or Never put an issue out like an Aufheben, you can bet it would put off a lot of the readers - ditto the other way around.

That's a different thing from having different styles of writing and opinions within one issue of a paper - which is usually a good thing (unless you think you already know the solution to everything).

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Nov 22 2005 13:45
John. wrote:
october_lost wrote:
Because dissent and individualism are not to be tolerated?

Are you being serious, october?

No one wants to read something that's just all over the place. There are loads of different libertarian sites for different sets of people - but if you want to keep people coming back to and using yours it has to maintain some consistency. For example, if Now or Never put an issue out like an Aufheben, you can bet it would put off a lot of the readers - ditto the other way around.

Having aims and principles which is representative of your audience (and your politics) is different from enforcing some level of consistency from an editorial perspective. Debate within any movement is clearly a healthy process.....

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Nov 22 2005 13:50

Depends what limits you put on it. Freedom's are that news should be comment free (as much as is humanly possible), be backed up with facts, and couched in language which is neither patronising nor overcomplicated.

This does significantly affect individual styles, but without it, one writer ignoring those rules can completely undermine the thrust of the paper. Tbh I think that excessive individualism in writing style can be as antisocial as any other kind of individualism which doesn't take into account everyone else's work and their group's overall ethos.

No-one's saying that opinion pieces can't be different October, only that anarchist reporting should take the publication's general style into account. And yes, subs do tend to know better than writers whether what has been written sounds good, because of the level of removal from personal authorship (and training, in some cases).

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Nov 25 2005 10:44

Cos my ed's not here and I'm bored, couple more bits n bobs:

- Pics with captions/headlines etc Always try and find some. Not just cos it makes life easier for the subs cos they don't have to source it themselves, but also because you know better than the sub about your subject. Subs are good for making sure facts/grammar/structure are correct but they won't know any more about the subject than your readership, and may make heinous mistakes.

(eg. I once put a pic on the front page or my paper which was supposed to be a council chairman, turned out he'd retired the year before and it was someone completely different. The reporter would have known that but wasn't around, so councillor inevitably phoned up in a right strop and the paper looked incredibly stupid).

Suggested headlines are good cos it shows which bit of the story is the most important (to you, at least). It may not be what goes in, cos it may not fit the space, but is a useful guide.

gurrier
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Nov 25 2005 11:38

Gurrier's golden rule for anarchist writing:

Imagine that your intended audience is your granny.

Ghost_of_the_re...
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Nov 25 2005 16:50
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Ghost_of_the_revolution wrote:
Quote:
A publication has to have a consistent tone

Why?

Because it should aim to build up a consistent readership.

Sorry to bring this up again, but why? Surely the more angles you come from the more people you reach, the only 'consistent readership' people are going to aim for when writing an anarchist paper is one composed of hippies and trendy intellectuals, in other words, the proverbial choir.

A consistent style in a publication elevates that publication to a status whereby it is an entity in itself, apart somehow from what is written and those who write. At which point your newspaper is the same as all others, ie a vehicle for giving instructions and therefore inherently non-anarchist and counter-revolutionary. Furthermore, the telegraph etc have much more experience doing that sort of thing, so if you want to indoctrinate people just go and write for them.

I'm not arguing this very well, but i'm definitely right.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 25 2005 18:09
Ghost_of_the_revolution wrote:
the only 'consistent readership' people are going to aim for when writing an anarchist paper is one composed of hippies and trendy intellectuals, in other words, the proverbial choir.

Why should this be the only potential audience for anarchist reporting?

On the other points, you're mixing up anarchist publishing with open publishing. A newpaper is an entity in itsef, and does have an identity. Otherwise people have nothing to associate the title 'Freedom' with. If the quality varies massivley people will be put off it, as they have been in the last 15 years or so.

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Nov 25 2005 18:20

No. You're not. You aren't arguing well because you are basing on ridiculous assumptions which have no basis whatsoever in practical realities.

1. No-one is arguing that you shouldn't have the ability to choose your own angle in your own article. The bit being argued is on how that angle is written, which should be in a style commensurate with the paper's target audience, and that certain standards/boxes should be ticked for any news article worthy of the name (saying who, what, when, where, why and how for starters).

2. A consistent tone is designed to give a paper authority only in its reportage, not in its comment. News by its nature does not suggest remedies, but only reports what is going on. As has been repeatedly said here and elsewhere, a great deal more freedom is given when it comes to non-news items. For news though, it's completely ridiculous to expect non-anarchists to trust reports which clearly have an overarching agenda obscuring the facts. Bias is an unfortunate inevitability in news, it should not be the proud parent of what's written.

3. You appear to think that anarchists should be presenting their news in a substantially different way to the major press. That's not just wrong-headed, it's blindingly stupid, not to mention arrogant.

On the one hand, we've had the best part of 80 years of anarchist press going nowehere. On the other, a major press reaching almost everyone in britain. The only major success stories have been where the anarchist movement has aped the major press, perhaps with a twist but substantially with the same premise every time - news stories whch are well-researched, and stick to the general structuring techniques of the major press.

Class War did so, Schnews was founded by journos who went on to work in the industry, Freedom's reputation has (I hope) improved for having professional standards, the sole part of Indymedia that anyone actually bothers to read is when people who know what they are doing post stuff, which almost always ends up as one of the features because it's the only vaguely acceptable content on there.

4. How is creating a voice which is trusted by people and has high production standards any more counter-revolutionary than the so-called 'agit-prop' put out by individuals, often of such poor quality and research that it actively undermines everyone else who might call themselves anarchist in the eyes of all who read it?

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 25 2005 18:44

Hi

I am loving this thread.

Love

LR

creepyoller
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Nov 25 2005 18:53

Saii, your last post was spot on.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 25 2005 19:06

A newsletter or newspaper having a distinctive tone is no more 'authoritarian' than a band or record label having a distinctive sound.

Ghost_of_the_re...
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Nov 25 2005 19:28
Saii wrote:
No. You're not. You aren't arguing well because you are basing on ridiculous assumptions which have no basis whatsoever in practical realities.

1. No-one is arguing that you shouldn't have the ability to choose your own angle in your own article. The bit being argued is on how that angle is written, which should be in a style commensurate with the paper's target audience, and that certain standards/boxes should be ticked for any news article worthy of the name (saying who, what, when, where, why and how for starters).

2. A consistent tone is designed to give a paper authority only in its reportage, not in its comment. News by its nature does not suggest remedies, but only reports what is going on. As has been repeatedly said here and elsewhere, a great deal more freedom is given when it comes to non-news items. For news though, it's completely ridiculous to expect non-anarchists to trust reports which clearly have an overarching agenda obscuring the facts. Bias is an unfortunate inevitability in news, it should not be the proud parent of what's written.

3. You appear to think that anarchists should be presenting their news in a substantially different way to the major press. That's not just wrong-headed, it's blindingly stupid, not to mention arrogant.

On the one hand, we've had the best part of 80 years of anarchist press going nowehere. On the other, a major press reaching almost everyone in britain. The only major success stories have been where the anarchist movement has aped the major press, perhaps with a twist but substantially with the same premise every time - news stories whch are well-researched, and stick to the general structuring techniques of the major press.

Class War did so, Schnews was founded by journos who went on to work in the industry, Freedom's reputation has (I hope) improved for having professional standards, the sole part of Indymedia that anyone actually bothers to read is when people who know what they are doing post stuff, which almost always ends up as one of the features because it's the only vaguely acceptable content on there.

4. How is creating a voice which is trusted by people and has high production standards any more counter-revolutionary than the so-called 'agit-prop' put out by individuals, often of such poor quality and research that it actively undermines everyone else who might call themselves anarchist in the eyes of all who read it?

Well first of all congratulations on fitting so much hyperbole into a single sentence, and I especially like the way you later accuse me of arrogance. Since you have presented your argument in such a delightful AS level sociology exam answer style i shall answer your points in a simillar format.

1. You mention assumptions. I originally questioned the necessity for a target audience, and your reply merely assumes that a target audience is in fact necessary. You are right insofar as a target audience implies that a certain style of writing is needed, but, again, my point was that a target audience is not needed in an anarchist paper.

2. Once again i reiterate, 'authority' sets the publication apart from the reader and turns it into a repressive instituiton, or at least it would be repressive if anybody actually read it. Authority. Anarchism. come on, you're making this too easy for me.

3. Hyperbole again. Anarchist publications should clearly be different from mainstream media, for a start they need not project an endlessly negative and cynical view of the world as corporate papers do. To raise another of my earlier points, a paper which mimics a corporate paper is never going to achieve anything for the cause of anarchism.

4. Production standards have precisely nothing to do with content. Again, corporate papers are well-produced and full of lies and hatred. The correlation between production standards and 'trust' is undeniable, but i never said anything about production standards, for my part i would advocate a well-produced and attractive publication, albeit with a somewhat subversive structure wherever possible.

People have seen copycat daily telegraphs from the communists, the socialist workers, the BNP and every other political fringe group going. None of them have succeeded in implementing their regime of choice, or indeed winning any signficant public support. This is not necessarily because these groups are inherently crap and repulsive to the public conciousness, but because their publications are dreary and patronising. Like i said, the big papers have much more experience in being cynical and patronising than we do, essentially the only way to compete with them is not to try. Be random, be idiosyncratic, be entertaining. Be whatever the fuck you like except the same as everything else.

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Nov 25 2005 19:38

Hi

It's not as if the mainstream press is doing well. They're struggling to hold on to their readership, although it may be bottoming out now.

Whether that’s a problem or an opportunity remains to be seen.

Love

LR